Archive - Nailing Scene Structure RSS Feed

Scene Structure: Establishing Your Setting

For this week’s Throwback Thursday, we’re looking at excerpts from past posts on Live Write Thrive that tie in with our exploration on scene structure.

From An Introduction to Stationary Camera Shots:

Setting Up the Scene: Establishing Shots

Establishing Shots are critical in a film. They clue the viewer where this next scene is about to take place. Each time the location of a scene shifts, a new establishing shot does exactly what its name implies: it establishes where the story will now continue, and fiction writers need to do the same thing. The purpose is to give a general impression rather than specific information.

Often a Long Shot is used for an Establishing Shot, but not all Long Shots are Establishing Shots, so those will be discussed in another chapter. Although Establishing Shots are mostly used at the beginning of a scene to set the locale, they can also be used at the end of a segment to provide a revealing or unexpected context, which can pack a big punch when offering the audience a surprising twist tied into the setting or landscape. Continue Reading…

First Pages of Best-Selling Novels: The Way of Kings

We’ve been examining the first pages of best sellers these past weeks and have looked at quite a variety so far—of writing styles and genre. We note with a lot of these successful novels that their first pages are often creatively done and “break the rules” regarding narrative, telling instead of showing, getting right into action, and having the main character quickly engage in dialogue or some other interaction with other characters.

While these rules are often repeated to writers, it’s clear they can be broken. What’s the point of “rules” then? Good question. Experienced novelists may open their story with enough essential ingredients that they still grab readers and arouse mystery and curiosity.

As you read these weekly posts and examine novels on your own, pay attention to the elements these proficient writers introduce right away that work. As you can see in these breakdowns using my first-page checklist, most of the important features of a successful first page are nailed by these authors. They may have mostly narrative and no dialogue. They may even open with the weather (heaven forbid!). They sometimes use a lot of passive sentence construction.

I think Robert Goolrick deliberately tried to break every rule in his best seller A Reliable Wife. His novel starts with twenty pages of nothing happening. A man stands on a railway platform waiting for a train. There is no action or dialogue. And yes, it starts with the weather and the first sentence begins with “It was . . .” While I didn’t care for the novel myself, many rave about it. Just shows there is room for a lot of variety in styles and tastes. Continue Reading…

Scenes as Capsules of Time

We’ve been looking at scene structure for a couple of months now. My aim is to help you nail this so you’ll never write a weak scene ever again. So in this post we’re going to talk about capsules. If you wrap your mind around this concept, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

The best scenes are enclosed in capsules of time. What does that mean? That you begin your scene in a specific, clearly identified moment in time and you move forward some “screen time” minutes, then end.

Picture a movie scene. With most scenes, unless it includes a flashback or some creative device, you are watching real time action. A character gets out of his car, runs across the highway, scoops up the terrified dog, runs back to his car, throws the dog into the backseat, then gets into his seat, shuts the door, and heaves a big sigh.

That might be a complete movie scene segment. Maybe it takes thirty seconds to watch from beginning to end. If the director wanted to heighten the tension more (for a specific reason), that scene might take two minutes to watch, with viewers biting every nail to the nub in fear for that dog’s life. Continue Reading…

Page 9 of 15« First...«7891011»...Last »